How to choose a Camera Bag for Nature Photography
What camera bag do you use? – This is one of the most frequently asked question by our students and fans alike. A camera bag is an indiscernible accessory for both a professional and an amateur nature photographer. It does not matter what genre of photography you are pursuing; you will need a camera bag to carry your gear when you go shooting.
For landscape and nature photographers who spend considerable time outside, the camera bag must be robust enough to withstand what nature throws at you… and be able to carry food, water, and clothes along with your can camera equipment. The good news is that there are plenty of companies that make great camera bags. However, this make our choice for finding the right camera bags rather complicated.
So just how do you go about finding the right camera bag for nature photography? Here are few suggestions to get you started…
As a nature photographer, I spend a several hours to a full day outdoors when I am on location trying to capture a stunning landscape photo. And all this time I am carrying my camera gear, food, water, and protective clothing. For this reason, a camera bag that fits comfortably and carries all the gear you may need to photograph and survive in nature is absolutely essential.
We can categorize camera bags into two very broad categories based on how you carry your camera gear:
Weight carried on your shoulders
This first type uses shoulder straps to carry the weight of your gear. Some of these bags look like camera backpacks, but the waist belts are non-load bearing and are there only to secure the bag so that it does not bounce around. I do not recommend this type of camera bags no matter how good a shoulder strap the camera backpacks have because, as you load the camera bag, your shoulder will get sore and tired after a short time.
Weight carried on your hips
The second type of camera bag is a backpack style camera bag with a sturdy waist belt that allows you carry the weight of your gear on your hips. As any backpacker will tell you, this method of carrying your gear not only allows you to carry more gear, you can do it comfortably for a longer period of time then if you were carrying the gear on your shoulders.
Our Shimoda Design camera bags allow us to carry to the weight of our camera gear on our hips. In addition, the should belt of these bags is adjustable so that you can fit the camera bag to your own torso. Once adjusted correctly, these bags fit like a glove and feel like an extension of our body.
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If you are a female photographer you may want to consider camera bags that offer features such as shoulder straps that are specifically designed to fit the female body type.
A Camera Bag built for Adventure
As a nature photographer, I spend more time outside then indoors in order to get those stunning photos. This time includes a lot of hiking difficult terrain and navigating small creeks, jumping over logs, scampering over boulders and more. For this reason, I look for camera bags that have stiff, but protective inserts to hold our gear securely in place.
And to get the perfect photo, I often must wander out in nature during bad weather. I have hiked out in the dunes during a sandstorm, wandered into the wilderness during a heavy downpour, and more. I also must protect my gear form the accidental splash of the waves or swirling mist that is full of sediments from a melting glacier. So I always look for camera bags with a tough outer shell that is made of ripstop water resistant fabric and which come with a waterproof rain cover that fits securely to the bag.
In other words, you may want to get a bag that cannot only withstand the elements of nature, but also keep your gear secure while you pursue the outdoor nature photography adventure.
As I indicated before, we often must use camera bags to carry more then just photography gear. If I am spending all day in the field, I carry food, water, and protective clothing with me. But this is not always the case. Sometime my hiking is limited but I may need to fit more gear in our bag. For example, when I am out photographing birds in the Everglades National Park, I rarely go more than a mile or so from my car, but I have to carry extra lenses instead of food, water, or protective clothing.
Here is what Varina and I carry in my camera bag
Your camera bag must be flexible enough to accommodate all potential situations you may face. My camera bag can fit a number of different size core units. Additionally, the units allow me to customize the space inside the bag to fit differing amounts of photography gear as needed.
Ease of Accessibility is Important
Let’s face it… when I am out in nature, quick access to capture that unexpected photo opportunity is important. So is the the fact that a sudden downpour may require me to pull out the rain jacket on my bag quickly. And what if I want to shoot in rain? I should be able to access the camera gear in the bag without removing the rain cover from the bag.
We often hike into swamps or wet locations where it is nearly impossible for us to set our bags down. When I was out exploring and photographing this gorgeous location in Florida, I had to hike a mile into knee deep water with no place to put the camera bag down. My camera bag is flexible enough to allow me to access gear from the back of the bag without have to put it down on the ground, as you can see from the image below.
Not only can I swing the bag around to access the gear, I can use it as a table to change lenses, attach filters, and more. Look for a bag with multiple access points and one that allows you get your camera without removing protective gear from your bag.
Look for Travel Friendly Camera Bags
Travel is a primary requirement for all nature and landscape photographers. After all, you must travel to get to those stunning locations you are trying to photograph. When I travel, I always have my camera bag with me as carry-on luggage. So during this time, my camera bag must fit my camera gear, but also other tech gadgets that I need such as a laptop and a phone.
When I am travelling to a remote location, I often fly in a small airplane with a limited overhead space. My camera bag must be able to fit in the overhead compartment. Or, if the overhead compartment is full, I must fit the camera bag under the seat in front of me. Not only can the core unit of my camera bag be easily removed, but the entire unit can be zipped up and carried around the airport. This feature makes the bags extremely travel friendly and can accommodate unforeseen conditions during my travels.
My camera bag also has two pocket shoulder straps. This makes it ideal for carrying headphones, cell phones, charging cable, and a wallet with me through the airport. Of course, once in the field, these pockets are used for necessary accessories for capturing some awesome photos.
Ask Yourself These Questions
So, the next time you are out shopping for a new camera bag, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I carry this bag and all the necessary gear for an extended period of time?
- Will this camera bag keep my gear safe from the elements when I am out pursuing my adventures?
- Can I organize and access my gear quickly when faced with those unexpected stunning moments that nature provides us?
- Is it flexible enough for my current needs and those that may arise in future?
- Will I be able to take it to remote destinations?
Good luck and happy hunting for that perfect camera bag for your next nature and landscape photography adventure.
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Disclaimer: Varina & Jay Patel are brand ambassadors for Shimoda Camera Bags & Accessories.